On October 28, 2010, The Judicial Council, our United Methodist Supreme Court, said they recognized a church law as “wrong headed” that allowed a pastor to deny membership by transfer from another denomination based solely on sexual orientation, but then refused to take any action to correct the church law.
This intentional refusal to right an obvious wrong is the latest act of discriminating hurt directed by the UMC towards LGBT people. The notorious 1032 from October 31, 2005 introduced “pastoral discretion” in matters of church membership for the first time since the denomination was formed in 1968. The Rev. Dr. Gayle Felton, author of this particular wording in the Book of Discipline, advised the Judicial Council that none of the writers had any intent to allow pastors to discriminate against LGBT people and that such “pastoral discretion is a myth.”
We can agree with the way Judicial Council members describe the 1032 decision: “wrongly decided…usurping…took liberties…ignored settled precedent…created a perverse anomaly.” But such stern language rings hollow when allowing the decision to be unchallenged officially by the council when opportunity is given. Undoing a judicial fiat such as 1032 is principled faithful work within the bounds and responsibility of the Judicial Council.
Additionally, a few council members express weariness at “repeated request for review, reconsideration and retraction” and describe such efforts as “insanity” and “tepidly symbolic”. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender persons and their allies can identify with weariness at repeated side-stepping while professing vigorous dissent. But we are never tepid about longing and working for justice. The judge hearing the case of the persistent widow surely had some choice words about her persistence. And though weary, we know the widow wins (Luke 18:5).
While not dissenting from the decisions, other council members advance that 1032 was indeed overturned at General Conference with the changes made from may to shall in Paragraph 225 on membership. One council member “helpfully” suggests another gay person must experience rejection by the church in membership for the council to incorporate the new Paragraph 225 language.
I’d rather do more than just offer up another sacrificial lamb.
RMN organizes at the grassroots level building the movement of inclusion to transform our church and world. You can be a part and take another step for justice. You can help grow power for change:
- Participate and help plan a Believe Out Loud Together training for January through March 2011
- Organize people and scholarships for the MFSA and RMN co-sponsored Sing A New Song movement-building event August 25-28, 2011
- Join your regional reconciling group’s effort for annual conference witness, election of delegates, and legislative efforts
- Make connections and common cause with our world-wide church
- Give! Make a contribution to empower RMN to advance our advocacy for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the UMC.
Prior to RMN, Troy served for 13 years on the pastoral staff of Bering Memorial United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas. He directed Bering’s on-site counseling center for those affected by HIV/AIDS. Outside Bering’s sanctuary in 1999, he performed a “street wedding” for a lesbian couple celebrating 25 years together and facilitated Bering’s equal treatment of all couples policy. He also coordinated Bible Study, mission trips, retreats, and nonviolence training. Facing a bomb threat with 50 other couples, Troy and Walter, shared promises and rings on Freedom To Marry Day, February 12, 2003 for their 5th anniversary.